If you’re on this page, you’re probably already a fan of horror movies. As a matter of fact, so am I. But maybe you need an excuse to drag a friend or loved one to see a new one. Or maybe you want to rent a scary movie. Well, my fellow horror enthusiast, I’ve got the answer for you.
There are many physical, emotional, and psychological reasons to watch horror movies:
- Increased adrenaline
- Pain relief
- Immune system boost
- Burn calories
- Condition stress response
- Date benefits
- Prepare for real life.
Let’s take it step by step, shall we?
- Increased adrenaline. Because we react with fear to what’s going on on-screen, despite not being in danger, the amount of adrenaline our body is producing goes up. What’s so great about that? Well, it can help with depression. It’s a natural upper that only costs as much as the movie you’re watching, and it’s completely legal. Next time you’re having a hard time finding the will to get out of bed day after day, try throwing some horror movies into your routine.
- Destressing. Back in the days of Grecian theatre, there was an audience member named Aristotle. He believed that there was a driving reason for an audience member to see a play; Catharsis. What is catharsis? At the end of a movie or play, we often (though not always) get a sense of relief, of finality. In this moment, there is a rush of endorphins, and we feel much better about the world in general. This is heightened in horror movies, when you finally get to relax as the ghost, murderer, demon, or other baddie is removed from the picture – pun intended. This catharsis gives us a sense of relief, regardless of our real-world problems, giving us a way to destress.
- Pain relief. Adrenaline, glutamate, serotonin, dopamine, and other chemicals are released when watching a scary movie, which can make you feel better in a physical, mental, and emotional way. Again, a natural, legal high, regardless of where you live. There have been some scientists suggesting that this release of chemicals could improve overall mental health, as it helps with depression.
- Immune system. In response to the chemicals released during a horror movie viewing session, there is a spike in white blood cell activity, which means it boosts our bodies’ infection and virus fighting defenses. Feel a cold coming on? Horror movie it.
- Burn calories. Someone bring cake to an office party? Trying to lose weight? Jump-scares cause us to burn calories, as we’re tensing and releasing muscles for over an hour per movie. It’s a workout you can actually enjoy! Plus, let’s be honest, it’s darn hard to hold food/a drink (safely) when you’re jumping every five seconds, which means less snacking while you’re “working out.”
- Condition stress response. Watching horror movies helps condition your response to stressful situations. It may sound like a no-brainer, but it’s something I never thought of. If you watch horror movies, you become subconsciously more comfortable in scary situations, meaning you can be more rational and cool-headed in case of an emergency. Pro tip: if your parents are the ones keeping you from watching horror movies for whatever reason, try mentioning this fact. If you’re more level-headed when under stress, it gives you a better chance of coming out of the situation unscathed/alive.
- Date benefits. Eli Roth once said “Horror movies are the best date movies. There’s no wondering, ‘When do I put my arm around her.’” Honestly, you can’t go wrong with this one. You can put your arm around your date, or hold your date’s hand… Or hold onto your date’s arm. It’s an excuse to get close to the person you’re interested in. Plus, with the feel-good chemicals that are released during the catharsis, you’re more likely to leave a good impression on that person. When I talked about the plus side to watching horror movies with a friend of mine, she mentioned that when you tense up during the movie, you’re flexing (as I mentioned before). She suggested it as a subtle way to show off your muscles. Possible pro tip, I guess?
- Prepare for real life. Horror movies help prevent phobias. Scientists suggest that the combination of potential stressors and the subsequent catharsis helps us face fears and overcome them. I’m not saying you should force someone with phobias to watch a movie based on whatever phobia they have. It just could help prevent future phobias. Beyond that, there is the preparation for dealing with stressful situations, as I explained before. With that in mind, watching horror movies can make you the person who’s calm and collected during an emergency.
So what kind of horror movies get you? I'm a big fan of tension for extended amounts of time, with some jump scares. I'm a personal fan of when the scare is drawn out for a bigger payoff. Know what works for you, and watch it!